Bradford County is home to a unique historical site in north central Pennsylvania. However, I first made my way west over Route 6 to take in some impressive views.
First up is Wyalusing Rocks Overlook, which stands above one of the many bends in the Susquehanna River in this area.
A little further west, one comes upon the Marie Antoinette Overlook. The reason for this name will become apparent in my next post. The Overlook sits approximately 500 feet above the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. It was originally built in 1930 as a part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration).
Upcoming posts will feature a recent trip to Tioga and Bradford Counties, along with bonus locations. This will be followed by some very special “not in Pennsylvania” posts in Autumn. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some random favorites of mine.
A short trip to some state parks north of Harrisburg made for an interesting day out. Boyd Big Tree Preserve and Joseph E. Ibberson State Conservation Area are located in Dauphin County and occupy a distinctive niche in the state park system.They would be of particular interest to hikers.
The 1,025-acre Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area straddles Blue Mountain and is the habitat of large trees of numerous species, which are homes for deep forest birds, especially warblers. During the summer and fall, the old field is filled with blooming wildflowers like butterfly weed, In late July and early August, the flowers attract field birds and many varieties of butterflies. There is also a trail network here and opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Straddling Peters Mountain, the 803-acre Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area is dominated by large hardwood trees. This large block of nearly unbroken forest is a haven for wildlife like forest warblers and other deep woods animals. A main attraction of the conservation area is the elaborate trail system which connects to the Appalachian Trail on the northern slope of Peters Mountain.
Berks County is the home to a few covered bridges and some very picturesque spots. Greisemer Covered Bridge is one of few I have seen with a hex sign. The oak design is one of my favorite hex signs. Here are a few views of the bridge. You will note the common Burr arch truss design.
A lovely church property stands between the two bridges featured in this blog. This is Salem United Church of Christ in Oley and its churchyard. The view toward the hills beyond is really lovely.
The Pleasantville Covered Bridge is on more busy stretch of the appropriately named Covered Bridge Road and more difficult to photograph. As a white bridge, it provides a nice contrast with the red Greisemer Bridge. It is interesting that, although I see barn stars everywhere, I tend to see hex signs more often in Berks County.
Below are a few photographs of a favorite corner of northwestern Chester County. I go here in hopes of finding some grassland species of birds that sometimes frequent farmers fields. So far I have just found horned larks, but there have been snow buntings, eastern meadowlarks and others spotted in the area, so you never know ….
Lycoming County has a total of four covered bridges. I visited two of them on my way home from Potter County.
The Buttonwood Bridge (also known as the Blockhouse Bridge) was built in 1898 with the structure spanning Blockhouse Creek. It uses a queen post with king post truss and is 74 feet 2 inches (22.6 m) long. The bridge is in good condition with a new wood shingled roof and pressure treated floor. The structure is open to traffic all year long. The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and had a major restoration in 1998. It is the shortest and most heavily used of the three covered bridges remaining in Lycoming County.
The next bridge to the south was the Cogan House Bridge. This bridge was built in 1877 of the Burr Arch design with a structure length of 94 feet crossing Larry’s Creek. Cogan House bridge is open to traffic, and leads to a dead end private drive near the game lands. The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and had a major restoration in 1998. The Cogan House bridge is named for the township and village of Cogan House, and is also known by at least four other names: Buckhorn, Larrys Creek, Day’s, and Plankenhorn.
The Cogan House Covered Bridge was constructed by a millwright who assembled the timber framework in a field next to the sawmill, before it was reassembled at the bridge site. It was the only bridge on Larrys Creek that survived the flood of June 1889, and one of only a handful that were left intact in the county. Although the bridge used to carry a steady flow of tannery and sawmill traffic, the clearcutting of the surrounding forests meant the end of those industries by the early 20th century.
I made my way east from Coudersport along Route 6 to visit Denton Hill State Park. Denton Hill was primarily operated as a ski area until downhill ski operations were shut down in 2014. The park is still open for access to hunting, fishing, hiking and cross country skiing. The park also had five cabins and a dormitory style bunkhouse in the lodge to support downhill ski operations. Feasibility studies have been done to assess the viability of reopening ski operations and to find other year round uses for the park. The history of ski areas in Pennsylvania state parks is a complicated story and best left for another day.
I drove by Denton Hill in the early 1990s. The ski area was visible from Route 6 at that time. My father, who was born in Lycoming County and raised in Columbia County, was a big supporter of skiing in north central Pennsylvania. The way ahead for Denton Hill looks difficult. The feasibility study and master plan can be found here. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is across Route 6 from the park entrance.
I left Austin and proceeded south to Sizerville State Park. This park reminds me of Hyner Run or Reeds Gap. It is a quiet park with a small campground and a pool. Alas, the pool at Reeds Gap is gone, but this type of park remains one of my favorites. The 368 acre Sizerville is surrounded by Elk State Forest and near large blocks of additional state forest land. If it wasn’t so far, I’d like to come back here.
I then made the long journey to Kettle Creek State Park. In retrospect, I should have done this the day before as continuation of my trip to Ole Bull, but now I know better. The park consists of 1,793 acres along Kettle Creek in western Clinton County. The park is in a valley surrounded by mountainous terrain and wilderness. Many of the existing recreational facilities arose from a joint flood control project developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. The park offers camping, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other activities.
I thought I might be able to save some time getting to Sinnemahoning State Park by driving up to Kettle Creek Vista then cutting across the ridge and down the other side. Of course there were no roads down into the other valley, because there was another lake, with (you guessed it) another dam.
I made the trek back down the valley to highway north to Sinnemahoning State Park. The park, located near the center of the Pennsylvania Wilds’ scenic steep valleys region, encompasses 1,910 acres of beautiful scenery and outstanding wildlife habitat. Situated in Cameron and Potter counties, the park is nestled between the green-shouldered ridges of Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest and Susquehannock State Forest. The park is long and narrow and includes lands on both sides of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek — a major tributary to the Sinnemahoning Creek. At the southern end of the park, a 145-acre reservoir created by the George B. Stevenson dam provides fishing and boating opportunities. There is a campground and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, including elk, bear, and large variety of birds.
On Sunday of Juneteenth weekend, I spent the day checking out a few additional state parks in the Coudersport area along with one historic site. I headed southwest to the remains of the Austin Dam.
The Austin Dam, also known as the Bayless Dam, was a concrete gravity dam in the Austin, Pennsylvania area that served the Bayless Pulp and Paper Mill. Built in 1909, It was the largest dam of its type in Pennsylvania at the time. The catastrophic failure of the dam on September 30, 1911 caused significant destruction and the death of 78 in Freeman Run Valley below the dam. The dam failed because it was not built as designed to cut cost.
The paper mill and dam were subsequently rebuilt, but the mill was lost in a fire in 1933. A new dam was built, but it also failed, in 1942, with no loss of life. The dam was not replaced after the second failure. The remains of the failed first dam still stand and are the site of a local park. The ruins consist of a series of broken sections extending east to west across the Freeman Run Valley. There are five upright sections and two large and several smaller toppled sections. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
There is a small park here. It is also possible to camp here. As I am slightly freaked out by dams and given the history, I don’t think I could camp here.
I decided to stay in the town of Coudersport on my recent trip to Potter County. The town is the county seat and sits on the Allegheny River. It is in a broad valley and has a population of approximately 2,650. In addition to the nearby state parks and forests, popular attractions are the Coudersport Ice Mine and the Eliot Ness Museum.
Up next is a look at the Hotel Crittenden, a restaurant and bar with a small number of guest rooms upstairs. It is situated in the center of town and feels like an historic property that has been in use as a hotel for a long time. This is Room 1, the “Queen Suite,” which has two rooms with two queen beds, a bathroom, fridge, second sink, coffee area, microwave, and television.